You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Cold snap leads to spike in COVID-19 cases at Calgary Drop-In Centre

Calgary Herald logo Calgary Herald 2021-02-22 Sammy Hudes
a sign on the side of a building: The Calgary Drop-In Centre was photographed on Monday, March 23, 2020. © Provided by Calgary Herald The Calgary Drop-In Centre was photographed on Monday, March 23, 2020.
Replay Video

The Calgary Drop-In Centre saw new COVID-19 cases spike among clients and staff over the past two weeks as the recent cold snap led to busier conditions than usual at the shelter.

There were 24 active cases at the shelter’s main building, along with five active cases among staff, as of Sunday evening. Those 29 infections were more than double the active cases the shelter had just one week ago, when there were 14, and up from just two active cases two weeks ago.

A spokesperson for the Drop-In Centre, which has a capacity of more than 450 spaces, said the site was “busier than the previous weeks” during the province’s  deep freeze earlier this month , which lasted close to two weeks and saw temperatures drop below -30 C .

But the site did not reach capacity, nor did it have to turn anyone away during the cold snap, the centre said.

Rapid testing on-site has allowed staff to identify symptomatic and asymptomatic clients quickly. Those individuals are promptly referred to a 100-unit assisted self-isolation site at a Calgary hotel , which was set up last year to house people facing homelessness after they test positive for the novel coronavirus or come in contact with a positive case.

“Following the cold snap, the recent spike in COVID-19 cases demonstrates the importance of vaccinating Albertans staying in congregate spaces as well as front-line shelter staff,” said Drop-In Centre executive director Sandra Clarkson.

“Until then, the DI will continue to collaborate with our partners to support those without a fixed address during COVID-19.”

The current outbreak at the Drop-In Centre, which began in November, is its third since the pandemic hit Alberta nearly one year ago.

There have been 182 confirmed COVID-19 cases among clients at its main building since November, along with seven at its overflow site and 26 cases among staff.

Those cases were detected from approximately 4,000 tests, representing a positivity rate of around 5.4 per cent. Twenty-five staff and 165 clients have recovered.

Due to the cold snap in early February, the shelter expanded the hours of its clothing room to accommodate anyone who needed to pick up winter attire.

Other shelters for people experiencing homelessness in Calgary are also dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks following the deep freeze.

Alpha House had five active cases on Sunday, according to Alberta Health, along with 29 recovered cases. There was also one active case at the Mustard Seed’s Foothills shelter, which has recorded 28 recoveries.

Related

Kathy Christiansen, executive director of Alpha House Society, said shelter space was “overfull” in some areas during the deep freeze, as the organization encouraged people to come inside.

She said extra Downtown Outreach Addiction Partnership vans were on the road to assist those in need of shelter during the extreme cold.

“The weather was such that there was a real risk for serious frostbite or even loss of life,” Christiansen said.

“That did mean that the shelters were busier than usual during that time, which was to be expected, and people did come inside which was a safer choice, but we did see a little spike in COVID cases as a result.”

a close up of a woman wearing glasses:  Kathy Christiansen, executive director, Alpha House © Jim Wells Kathy Christiansen, executive director, Alpha House

Despite the outbreak, Christiansen said cases were “manageable,” citing the fact that added health precautions have been in place for nearly a year to prevent further spread. She said staff were able to ensure two-metre distancing at Alpha House’s main shelter.

“We were not only full overnight but people were staying in during the day as well,” she said.

“The priority was making sure that people were coming inside during that cold spell. The cold weather is life-threatening or it can result in some serious long-term health issues for some individuals.”

Since the pandemic began, the Calgary Homeless Foundation has diverted 472 individuals or families from homelessness, while 965 individuals or families have been housed, it said in a Feb. 10 update .

Nearly 150 families have been housed directly from the assisted self-isolation site, along with 124 from transitional housing, including the Drop-In Centre’s transitional housing project .

“Moving Calgarians out of homelessness and into a home with access to appropriate support services continues to be our highest priority,” the Calgary Homeless Foundation stated.

shudes@postmedia.com

Twitter: @SammyHudes

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Calgary Herald

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon